Sunday, June 14, 2009

Weird writers I have known

Writing rooms are often filled with, er…”interesting” personalities. Why comedy writing breeds quirky eccentric sometimes psychotic people is beyond my scope of understanding, but I frequently found myself in rooms populated by some colorful types. I should mention a couple of things at this point: Names have been changed to protect the guilty. I’m not looking to embarrass anyone or tarnish anyone’s reputation. And two, many of these individuals are also very funny, very helpful comedy writers.

So off we go:

Fred was an elderly gentleman from one of comedy’s golden ages (there have been so many) who used to draw pornographic flipbooks all day. We’d be trying to adjust some heartfelt speech and he’d interrupt to proudly show us “doggie style from the woman’s point of view looking back from between her legs”.

Gary read Variety all day and night. I don’t think I saw his face more than twice an entire season. How can it take a person twelve hours to read Daily Variety?

All you generally saw of Max was his ass because he was always getting phone calls and bolting the room to answer them. He’d be routinely gone for 45 minutes. Most of the time it was his agent. How much was there to talk about? This was his only job and he was lucky to have that!

Donna breast fed her baby. That was a little distracting but actually okay.

Robert had anger-management problems. One time his therapist suggested that when he got mad he take out a rubber band and play with it. This rubber band would come out and for two hours the rest of the staff would be freaked.

Paul had even worse anger issues. Something would set him off and he would just shut down. Completely. For weeks (not hours, not days, but weeks) Paul would sit in the corner, seething, never saying a word. We always figured he’d become the first Emmy winning serial killer.

Jeff was a P.A. killer. He had a large appetite. At 2:00 in the morning he’d have a taste for soul food and would send the 20 year-old coed who was interning for the summer from Oregon State out to Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles in the seediest part of Hollywood.

Jim paced with a yo yo all day. Okay, that was me.

Since comedy writers tend to be 8th grade geeks who never grew up, unattainable cheerleader crushes were replaced by unattainable actress crushes. Meg Ryan, Teri Hatcher, the Olsen twins, Jennifer Aniston, and Jamie Gertz were among the favorites. Interestingly, none of these writers had crushes on actresses from the shows they worked on. Maybe the fantasy is broken when the object of your heart's desire tells you your script is shit.

Anyway, these are just some of my encounters. I’m sure every room veteran has six or thirty of their own.


i'mnotkellygainesboyd said...

Holy Shit! Who knew?

word verification:frapheti

frappacino and spaghetti vomit

Bill said...

Writers have nothing on government employees.

I worked with a guy who once, in the middle of a meeting, reached into the trash and pulled out a half eaten piece of pizza and started eating it. If you left food alone when he was around, you might return to find a bite taken out of it. He was also a gun nut who liked to take imaginary target practice (with an unloaded gun) at people on his tv screen.

I also worked with a roughly 400lb gentleman (scales that go that high are too expensive, so he didn't know how much he weighed) who ate like you wouldn't believe. His mother sometimes asked him to pick up donuts on his way home. Since he couldn't help but eat two dozen on the drive, he'd pick up three dozen so there'd be some left for her.

Another gentleman was into puppetry. On more than one occasion, folks walked into his office to ask him about something, but they don't find their coworker, because he's crouched under his desk. They're greeted by a puppet. In a funny high pitched voice. And the guy makes them have their work-related conversation with the puppet. Also, he's a "furry." Don't google that if you don't know what it is.

One of these guys no longer works with me, because scary government types escorted him off the premises.

D. McEwan said...

Do you still have any of those flip books? I ask only because I'm interested in animation.

i'mnot kellygainesboyd said...

Dearest Bill~

What, pray tell, is a "furry"?

Something tells me NOT to google-like you warned. So, I won't.

But how 'bout a little hint?

Let's hear it for Ken Levine and Norman Lear. Two great men!! I mean it.

word verification: minumb
what happens to girls brains if they google Bill's word "furry"
(i'm only guessing)

Lantastic said...

a furry is someone who dresses up in bunny costumes I think. other animals too?

Paul said...

Hopefully not the Olsen twins during their Full House years.

Corinne said...

i'mnot kellygainesboyd, there was an episode of CSI: Las Vegas called Fur and Loathing.

Anonymous said...

There was a radio news guy in L.A. who used to play sound effects of gunfire as he composed his hourly newscast. The PD and GM never screwed with him.

A. Buck Short said...

The proper response to puppet guy is, "Talk to the hand." Although one never knows where the hand's been. It could have been fantasizing about the Hatcher Twins. Ken, you really knocked yourself out with the generic writer aliases. What, no Paulo? No Genevieve? No soap opera names? :) OK, the descriptions and analyses were entertaining and, as usual, worth the trip.

Tomorrow we anthropomophize Howie Mandel.

Anonymous said...

furry = what Irish people call fairies.

D. McEwan said...

You should share with all some of the hilarious Ronny Graham stories you've told me. You could call him "Donnie Mayhem." No one would catch on.

So was the flipbook animator (I'm becoming obsessed with those, probably because I remember the flipbooks I bought at Disneyland as a kid, always of Donad Duck, but never doing it duck-style, as viewed by Daisy Duck looking back at her tail.) a writer on THE SIMPSONS?

Maybe he should have been an animator.

WV: zingor: what he was trying to write between flipbooks.

Tom Quigley said...

Bill said:...

"Writers have nothing on government employees.... Another gentleman was into puppetry. On more than one occasion, folks walked into his office to ask him about something, but they don't find their coworker, because he's crouched under his desk. They're greeted by a puppet"...

Would perchance the government employee's name have been "Dick", and the puppet's name be "W"?....

charlotte said...

Love these kind of you-were-there posts, Ken! Keep 'em coming! :)

One of the things about being a freelance writer working from home is that while I'll never have any writing staff stories to tell, I'm always the most eccentric writer in the room.

rebram: misspelled warning by confused prop guy on The Shining

Anonymous said...

I once worked on a staff where one of the older writers was a bit hard of hearing, so he tended to shout everything he said. No one wanted to hurt his feelings, so the showrunner bought earplugs for the people who sat near him to help ease their discomfort... the only problem was that then they couldn't hear what other people were pitching in normal voices. There was lots of "huh?"... "what'd she say?"... "what was that?". Anyway, it became like Get Smart's cone of silence, so we ended up throwing the earplugs out. And you know what? That guy may have been hard of hearing, but he always pitched funny stuff and was very well liked.

Cap'n Bob said...

Beats working for a bunch of humorless micro-managing chickenshits.

Tom K. Mason said...

I once worked with a writer who while making a story pitch inadvertently said something that - late at night - could easily be interpreted as dirty. The room erupted with laughter, additional comments, and still more laughter, but the writer did not join in. He'd gone to stand in the corner with his back to us and didn't return until the laughter had subsided. Then he returned and picked up exactly where he'd left off, with no acknowledgment of what had just happened.

wv: Fencria: A secretion of the fencreas.